How the absence of a law on domestic violence lead to three women choosing between death or prison
In Moscow, the Khachaturyan sisters Krestina, Angelina and Maria stand accused of murdering their 57-year-old father Mikhail Khachaturyan.
They plead guilty during an interrogation but reported that he had systematically abused them.
They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted for premeditated homicide.
Father and daughter
The Khachaturyan sisters were arrested in July 2018 after the corpse of their father was found at the entrance of their house – with 45 stab wounds.
The girls say that over the years, their father subjected them to abuse – both physical and sexual. One sister even developed a psychological disorder.
According to the testimony obtained during the investigation, Khachaturyan began to solicit his daughters for sex shortly after the separation from his wife.
One of the sisters tried to commit suicide after being forced to have sex, but doctors saved her.
The girls also claim that their father tried to make them have group sex.
Those close to Angelina say there were more than 10 cases of sexual violence against her.
A medical examination confirmed the damage caused by sexual assault. In 2018, Khachaturyan practically ceased to let his daughters out of the house.
At home, they were like slaves. Krestina said in an interview:
“He demanded that we always be near and come at his first call. He had a special bell which he rang, and one of the three of us instantly had to run up to him, during the day or night and do whatever he says. Bring water, food, miscellaneous other items. He did not even open the window himself, we had to serve him as slaves.”
All their complaints to the police remained unanswered. Novaya Gazeta reports that Khachaturyan maintained friendly relations with local policemen.
A typical case?
Are there many cases like that of the Khachaturyan sisters?
Over the past two years, about 3,000 women have been convicted of murder in such circumstances.
About 8,500 women are killed annually by their husbands, lovers or relatives in Russia.
These are those who did not have a knife at hand or did not have enough strength to push the attacker with a temple into the window sill. That is, a woman always has a choice – to die or go to prison.
Situation getting better or worse?
In 2012, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia recorded 34,000 victims of domestic violence. Five years later, the number of victims had almost doubled – 65,000 in 2016 alone. And in 2017, suddenly there was a sharp decline in the number of victims down to 36,000. In 2018, even less.
Why? Because a law was passed on the decriminalization of domestic violence. Up until 2017 it was possible to go to prison for beating up a wife, but now beating one’s wife is punishable by about the same fine as that for improper parking.
At the same time, psychological abuse – pressure, humiliation, intimidation – are not punishable at all.
Why domestic violence has been considered a misdemeanour similar to improper parking?
There are three main reasons.
The first has to do with the budget money.
Protection from domestic violence will cost the Russian state dearly.
To do this, it is necessary to introduce a system of protective orders that prohibit the offender to contact the victim, and create a service that provides and controls this (this mechanism operates in 119 countries, but not in Russia).
Create a system of state shelters for victims, who often find themselves without shelter, often with children. There are such shelters in Russia, but in they exist only as private initiatives, and they are supported by grants and donations.
The second reason is foreign policy.
Russia has not ratified the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Domestic Violence. The non-adherence to the convention has been one of the consequences of the general aggravation of relations between Russia and Europe in connection with the sanctions.
The third reason is a mix of domestic, political and religious factors.
“Under the pretext of combating violence and protecting the weak … there are those who are trying to destroy our society and destroy its foundation, the family,” said the report of the commission of the Russian Orthodox Church on family, protection of motherhood and childhood.
In other words, now the conservative position in Russia sounds like this: “If he beats you, it means he loves you.”